The Fort McMurray Oil Barons are quickly showing that this is a much different team from a year ago. This year’s group is bigger, faster and more skilled and that was on full display Saturday night as the MOB thumped the Grande Prairie Storm 8-0 in front of another packed house at the Casman Centre.
The eight goals is nice, yes but posting back to back shutouts shows how much more improved this club is defensively. Curtis Roach and Jean Christopher Thivierge have made immediate impacts on the blueline, taking some of the pressure off Jordan Steenbergen and Taner Miller and solidifying a big back six which will give teams fits this season.
The teams traded chances early on but it was the MOB finding the back of the net three times in just under five minutes near the mid-way point of the first period that saw them pull ahead and never look back.
Nicholas Leeseberg opened the scoring on a short handed two on one when he fired a low,nd hard shot past Eric Jackson. Damon Porter would add to the lead moments later when he jumped on a rebound in front to pop home his second goal in as many nights.
“I had a meeting with Damon (Porter) in the summer time and I said if you want to be a go to guy and you want to be a player that gets quality minutes you have to be a player that produces and he’s doing that,” said Oil Barons Head Coach Tom Keca.
Brett Edwards would rifle a shot into the top corner three minutes later after he was left all alone in the slot to give the MOB a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Barons would add to their lead just 34 seconds into the second period when Will Conley flew down the wing and wired a shot off the goal post. Shane Fraser drove hard to the net and deposited his second goal of the season.
Jackson McKinstry would notch his first of the year on the powerplay at the 15:35 mark when he roofed a shot over the shoulder of Jackson off of a feed from Hayden Ursulak.
“Guys still are trying to find out where they fit in in our big picture and again I think we demonstrated today that we can have four lines, we can roll everybody and everybody’s going to get an opportunity to play,” said Keca.
In the third period, a frustrated Storm team began to unravel. Zac McNeill gave Jayden Pannu a two handed slash to the leg and then proceeded to cross check the young defender in the face. McNeill was issued a game misconduct for the second straight night and put the MOB on a seven minute powerplay.
The Barons struck three times with the man advantage with goals from McKinstry, Taner Miller and Jean Christopher Thivierge.
“To hang on and really not give up anything and then in the third period, 5-0 seems like it’s insurmountable but in this league you learn real quickly that if you take 2-3 minutes off you’re going to be in trouble so full credit to our players for staying focused, staying the course and we didn’t give up any odd man rushes and we capitalized on our powerplays in the third period,” said Keca.
The Oil Barons powerplay is firing on all cylinders to the start the season as the team went 4-7 with the man advantage and are a 50 per cent success rate through two games.
“When you have guys that can handle the puck and keep their head up and make smart decisions, your PP is a lot better,” said Keca of the early season chemistry on the powerplay.
The Barons out shot the Storm 44-19 in the game and 20-1 in the third period. For the second straight night, Eric Szudor was perfect and picked up his second shutout of the young season.
“Szudor bailed us out huge in the first period and we said on the bench we owe it to him to make sure we take this thing home and make sure we don’t let in a cheap one so full credit to the players in the room,” said Keca.
The Oil Barons will head out on their first road trip of the season with a trip to Bonnyville Tuesday night for a game against the Pontiacs. Puck drop is set for 7:30p.m.
You can listen to the game on Country 93.3 beginning with the pre-game show at 7:15p.m. with Taylor Pope.
Written by: Taylor Pope, mymcmurray.com